Why visit Santiago Chile for a full week? We stopped in Santiago for some rest and culture after nearly two weeks in Peru (the first leg of the South American itinerary of #DrJSabbatical) One week may feel like a long stay for a city without a lot of hype in South American travel circles. However, we enjoyed taking the time to explore the city of Santiago at a slower place and to make a few day trips from Santiago from our Airbnb in the city. Is Santiago worth visiting? Read on to find out more about various wining, dining, cultural and historical points of interest in and around the capital of Chile.
One Week in Santiago: Day 1 - Relax in Providencia
Breakfast at Cafe Vainilla in Providencia
We arrived in Santiago on an overnight flight from Lima, Peru. The most important thing on our minds when we arrived in Chile? coffee! We booked an Airbnb in Santiago's Providencia neighborhood which offers a great mix of mid-rise apartment buildings, shops, and restaurants/nightlife.
Pro-tip: if you arrive in Santiago early in the morning, consider booking your Airbnb for an extra night so you can check right in rather than having to walk around town with your luggage until the apartment is available for check-in.
That's what we did and after dropping off our bags and taking a power nap, we walked around the corner from our apartment and stumbled upon Cafe Vainilla for breakfast. For less than the equivalent of $5 USD, we were treated to scrambled eggs, bread, and coffee which we ate outside while watching Santiago's people stream past on their way to work. After breakfast, you'll have the fuel you need to explore the neighborhood further on foot.
Take Time to Relax with a Glass of Chilean Wine
We were definitely tired when we arrived so we took it easy on our first day. We picked up a bottle of Chilean wine at a grocery store near our Airbnb in Santiago. We popped the cork and sat outside on the balcony of our apartment to watch the sunset over the skyline of Santiago and the mountains beyond while a cool breeze refreshed us.
Dinner with Music at Cafe Liguria in Santiago's Providencia Neighborhood
We finished the first day of our week in Santiago with dinner at Cafe Liguria, a buzzing 'local' establishment in Providencia. It was a Thursday evening and the place was packed so we took a seat at the bar. We sampled the Chilean version of bruschetta (bread served with diced tomatoes and lime) with another glass of a chilled Chilean red. Hearty cast iron pots filled with meat and seafood rounded out the meal.
Our waiter was quite opinionated but also spoke very little English. He managed to convince us to try these two very specific dishes and we were glad we did. We like to heed the suggestions of the locals wherever we go. How about you?
Cafe Liguria also features live music on occasion. We listened to a local band sing their hearts out with the dinner service. Definitely one of our favorite experiences while visiting Santiago!
Sip A Pisco Sour and Settle the Chile vs Peru Debate for Yourself
We ended our first evening in Santiago by trying a Chilean version of a Pisco Sour. One of the first differences that we noticed was that Chile serves pisco sour in a champagne flute while Peru serves their signature cocktail in a larger, wider glass. Chilean pisco sour is not made with egg whites so you get less of the characteristic froth of the Peruvian version. I have to say that I enjoyed my Chilean pisco sour in Santiago but Peruvian pisco sours are my favorite.
One Week in Santiago: Day 2 - Bicycles, Bella Vista, Lasterria, and Santiago Central
Do A La Bicicleta Verde Morning Markets by Bike City Tour
One the second day of our week in Santiago, we embarked on a La Bicicleta Verde Morning Markts by Bike City Tour guided by Karla, Hector, and Stefan who were originally from Venezuela but who now called Santiago home. The tour departs at 9:30 in the morning (running for three hours) at the tail end of rush hour and we definitely encountered some traffic where we had to walk our bikes. La Bicicleta Verde's tour focused on Santiago's Bella Vista neighborhood and the central markets. We got to see Pablo Neruda’s house (aka La Chascona) and colorful street art with a political slant from the time of the controversial regime of Pinochet.
We parked our bikes and took a walking tour of bustling Mercado La Vega, the local fresh fruit and vegetable market.
We cycled onward to Mercado Central (the local fish market) which was constructed from Scottish steel that was shipped in to Chile. The market has a decidedly Victorian feel for this reason.
Santiago's Museum of Belle Artes
Many of Santiago's museums are run by the government and are free to enter. The Museum of Belle Artes in Santiago was located quite close to La Bicicleta Verde's offices so we popped in to admire the collections and the architecture of the building itself. Don't miss the basement collection of modern art which touches on some sensitive political topics (one exhibit rather overtly compared Pinochet to a long-nosed Pinocchio).
Lunch at Mulato in Santiago's Lasterria Neighborhood
Santiago is a city of neighborhoods. Lasterria is adjacent to Bella Vista and is a great spot to grab lunch. We sampled a two course meal at Mulato complete with a glass of wine. We visited Santiago in late Spring (early November) and dined al fresco in the sunshine. Lasterria also features some great shops and hipster places for coffee. It's easy to spend a couple hours here.
Climb Santa Lucía Hill
Santa Lucía Hill is a park adjacent to Lasterria. We climbed to the top and enjoyed sweeping views over the Chilean capital. At the top of the hill, we found pre-Colombian-inspired art.
Visit Santa Lucía Hill in late afternoon for some awesome reflections off the modern buildings nearby.
Visit Santiago's Plaza De Armas
Down the other side of the Santa Lucía Hill, it's possible to access Central Santiago and the historic Plaza De Armas. Modern glass buildings meet historic colonial-era facades in this part of town. We've heard that Central Santiago can be dangerous at night so we opted to go in the late afternoon while Plaza De Armas was still busy with business people out and about. We were also quite impressed by the ornate shopping arcades that you'll find near Plaza De Armas.
Pro-tip: it wasn't obvious where to find public toilets in Central Santiago. We asked around and soon discovered that there are pay-for-use toilet facilities underground near Plaza De Armas which are clean and safe.
One Week in Santiago: Day 3 - A Walk in Providencia
I'll admit, we may have overdone it a bit on Day 2 of our week in Santiago. It was hot when we visited Santiago and many of the places we frequented had limited shade. For this reason, I think I ended up with minor heat exhaustion after our travels on the previous day and was quite sick overnight. We took it easy the next day. You may want to split Day 2's activities into 2-days so you don't wear yourself out. Know your limits! That's the lesson that I learned.
Take a Sculpture Walk
Río Mapocho runs through the center of Santiago and the section near our Airbnb in Providencia features a modern sculpture park. A walk in the park was just what we needed to rest up and recover from the previous day's adventures.
One Week in Santiago: Day 4 - Art, History, and More Great Food
Explore Yungay Street Art
We picked up the pace again for our fourth day in Chile's capital. We took Santiago's easy-to-use metro from Providencia to Yungay to explore the amazing street art in the neighborhood.
You may be wondering if Santiago is safe especially if you take public transit. Santiago's metro system is great most of the time and it's easy to get around. However, I recommend avoiding the metro during rush hour when it gets really crowded. We made the mistake of getting on around 5 pm and we had to get off after one stop and walk the rest of the way back to our Airbnb when my husband could literally feel hands trying to pick his pocket on the crowded train. We never felt in danger during our visit to Santiago but petty crime like pickpocketing can be an issue. Use common sense and keep your wits about you.
Visit the Museum of Human Rights
Wander the narrow streets of Yungay and admire the street art creations and then stop into Santiago's Museum of Human Rights. The 20th century was a difficult one for Chile. Explore the troubling political history in depth at the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos including a memorial to the thousands of everyday Chileans who disappeared during Pinochet's government. The exhibits are detailed, fascinating and disturbing. Plan to spend at least a half day at the museum for a better understanding of Chile and how the country is thriving today despite many political setbacks in its history.
Santiago's Audacious Street Performers
On a more upbeat note, keep an eye out for street performances at busy intersections in Santiago. We spotted this giant puppet putting on a show for commuters. In other places, we saw impromptu breakdancing performances conducted in the time it takes for the light to change. All these performances are done in the hopes of earning tip money. I love this over-the-top creative spirit that we saw in Santiago.
Eat Your Way Through Bella Vista
We spent the afternoon back in Santiago's Bella Vista neighborhood so we could sample more great food. In Chile, a completo (a hot dog served with a dizzying array of toppings) is the ultimate fast food treat. We sampled Charly Dog and enjoyed our completo smothered in corn and avocado.
One Week in Santiago - Day Trips from Santiago
Chile's capital definitely has a lot to see in its own right but save a few days for day trips from Santiago. Santiago sits in the heart of Chilean wine country. Santiago is also just a couple hours from the gritty coastal city of Valparaíso. Here's how to round out your week in Santiago with some awesome day trips.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Did you know that Santiago is just a one hour flight from Mendoza, Argentina; one of the top wine regions in the world? Read about how to spend 4 days in Mendoza.
Get Your Guide Tour to Undurraga Winery
We signed up for a half-day small group tour to Undurraga Winery. Using a discount code, we paid 82 EUR for 2 people to take the tour. Rates quoted on the Get Your Guide website start at $45 USD per person. We were surprised when a private car rocked up to our Airbnb to pick us up for the tour.
Underraga Winery is about an hour from Santiago and features beautiful grounds.
Our 1 hour guided tour and tasting featured in-depth discussions of the terroir. We also learned about Carménère, a varietal that is originally French but was completely wiped out by Phylloxera in France in the 19th century. Carménère was thought to be lost for years (vines in Chile were mistaken for Merlot) before being rediscovered and heavily marketed as a Chilean favorite.
A Wine Tour of Aconcagua Valley
Another great day trip from Santiago is a wine tour of the Aconcagua Valley run by Bodega Wine Tours. The full-day tour cost $105 USD per person at the time of writing. A 3-course gourmet lunch at Flaherty Wines cost an additional $35 USD per person. Unlike tastings in the U.S., wine tastings in Chile are by appointment only so it's easiest to book yourself onto a tour.
Our first stop of the day trip was at El Escorial where we met Don Rodrigo and Maria Fernandez; super-friendly people! Given this, I wasn't surprised when I learned that Don Rodrigo's grandfather was Irish. As an aside, did you know that the first president of Chile, Bernando O'Higgins, was Irish?
We learned lots about the history of the property including the fact that it started out as a fruit cannery! El Escorial is one of only two Zinfandel producers in Chile.
Sanchez de Loria
Our next stop on our wine tasting day trip from Santiago was Sanchez de Loria which was an extremely pretty property but much less friendly. Our guide, Fergus managed the tasting for us. It was all very self-service and the vineyard essentially ignored us.
The next stop on our Bodega Wine Tours day trip from Santiago Chile was at Viña Almendral. We saw their old-fashioned operation where traditional fruit-based sweet wines are fermented and created by hand in a barn behind the tasting room. The array of flavors was incredibly impressive.
Our last stop of the day was at Flaherty Wines, an operation run by an American couple living in Chile plus a former barrel agent named Charlie. We were treated to a tour of their Aconcagua Winery and a generous tasting followed by a lovely 3-course lunch prepared by Jen (one of the owners who also happens to be a chef). Jen's chocolate tart absolutely made my day!
Take A Day Trip or Stay Overnight to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar
You simply cannot miss taking a day trip from Santiago to Valparaíso if you are spending any time at all in the Chilean capital. Valparaíso is a gritty port city. To get to Valparaíso from Santiago, take the metro to the central bus station and then buy a ticket with Tur. There is really no need to book in advance since buses leave for Valparaíso very frequently. It takes about 1.5 - 2 hours to get to Valpo (as the locals call it) by bus depending on traffic.
Valparaíso's main claim to fame is street art with some of the best artists in the world leaving their mark on the city. At times, it feels like every building in the city is covered with colorful street art. I definitely recommend taking Valpo Street Art's Grafreeti Tour for more context on the street art movement and what you're seeing.
Valparaíso is also known for 100+ year old ascensors (elevators) to help you get around this hilly port city in Chile.
The bus from Santiago to Valparaíso also stops in Viña del Mar, a posher seaside town nearby. Take the local bus from Valparaíso and take a walk along the sea and stop for a fast food lunch of empanadas at Empanadas Santa Carmela before catching the bus from Viña del Mar to Santiago.
It's possible to do Valparaíso as a day trip but it's also worth spending the night if you have the time. We spent one night at a hotel in Valparaíso without checking out of our Airbnb in Santiago to make sure we had plenty of time to see the sights without rushing.
Is Santiago Worth Visiting for a Week?
As you can see, Santiago is a vibrant city with plenty to see, do, and eat. Santiago features a range of points of interest focused on culture, street art, and history. This combined with opportunities for a wide range of day trips from Santiago means spending a week in the Chilean capital is totally worth it.
Places to Visit: Santiago Chile Map
Check out this handy map of the places that we visited in and around Santiago on our 1-week visit.